Category Archives: Best Practices for Social Software in Libraries

Your Library Does not Need a Social Media Plan By TTW Contributor Dr. Troy Swanson

Last month, someone contacted me about creating social media plans in libraries. From our email exchange, I think she was a bit surprised when I said that I think social media plans often get in the way and are a waste of resources. I told her that I could not send her a sample social media plan or a list of best practices for writing a social media plan. I told her that my suggested best practice was to not write a plan at all.

When I think about a “plan”, I mean a systematized set of steps that guide an organization through a process in order to achieve a goal. Plans are coordination tools. They layout steps, and they help people understand how they will work together. They are really useful in guaranteeing a course of action and preventing the group from deviating from that course. Plans work best when actions and goals are fairly well understood. Moving a library collection from an old facility to a new facility is a problem where a plan is absolutely vital. Having a technology plan for server upgrades or computer cascades is often important.

For a social media plan to be really useful, the planners would need to anticipate things they do not know as well as lessons they will learn along the way. They also need to anticipate new technologies that have not been invented. The plan will be in need of constant update.

We often overlook the fact that plans are not overly helpful when the goal is to learn, innovate, and adapt. As we know, social media are a set of technologies that are evolving constantly. They thrive in environments that are highly adaptive where organizational members can use technology to meet ever-changing needs. The decision about applying social media to needs should be located as closely to the ground as possible and not up at the top of the organizational chart.

This isn’t to say that effective use of social media relies on anarchy. Far from it. Organizations still need a structure around social media. Organizations can encourage social media by defining policies, workflows, guidelines, and best practices. These broad documents offer an outline where experimentation and play can exist around social media tool. The goal is to create a safe environment to play around with social media. Unfortunately, plans often fit our organizational DNA better than playfulness. Plans feel better than experiments, because plans require us to come up with outcomes in advance. Thus, we’ll spend six months developing a plan instead of spending that time developing an online services that advances our mission.

Many administrators like plans because they provide the illusion of making the unknown into something known. To me, this desire for a plan hearkens back to Michael Stephen’s warning from 2006, “Warning: failure to innovate while overthinking & underplanning library services may cause loss of library users & library staff.“. Social media plans too often fall into the category of failure to innovate due to “overthinking.”

Troy A. Swanson is Department Chair and Teaching & Learning Librarian at Moraine Valley Community College. He is the author of the book, Managing Social Media in Libraries. You can follow him on Twitter at @t_swanson.

Social Media Best Practices for Libraries: A TTW Guest Post

This post was written by Kasia Grabowska for last semester’s LIS 768: Library 2.0 & Networking Technologies class. Kasia has allowed me to repost it here.

After doing brand monitoring research for the past few weeks, looking closely at Skokie Public Library (and not so closely at several other libraries), I decided to put together a list of “do’s and don’ts” for librarians on successfully utilizing social media.

This is what I learned from doing brand monitoring and what I personally would recommend to libraries that are getting started with social media.

Tip #1: Learn how to monitor your brand

Join the RIGHT conversations at the RIGHT time. In other words, stay on top of what people are saying about you and make sure to respond, to let people know that you are listening and willing to join the conversation.

Tools to utilize for brand monitoring include RSS feeds, Google Alerts, Technorati, and staying on top of your Twitter, Facebook and other social media accounts. This is definitely the number 1 lesson I learned from this assignment.

Tip #2: Learn from your brand community

You’re already engaging in conversations, why not ask people for some feedback? There are plenty of quick and easy ways to get good information that will help you keep learning from what you’re doing and improving the process as you go along. Just make sure not to overdo it; remember to always engage in conversations as a person.

Tip #3: Have a game plan

Set goals, measure and iterate your social media efforts in order to continue to grow and improve your efforts. Make sure everyone who is involved in your social media strategy clearly understands the role and goals of this initiative. There’s nothing worse than joining a social network with no purpose, plan or a way to measure what you’re doing.

By using trackable links (like bit.ly or su.pr) to help track what your users are responding to, you will be able to measure your efforts and make improvements.

Tip #4: Promote, promote, promote

I noticed a lot of libraries who do wonderful things on Facebook, Twitter or Flickr yet they don’t include links to their social networks on their websites. Or libraries that use Twitter often but don’t follow anyone; that’s not a good way to start a conversation.

A library website should be an entry point to social media; you need to create awareness. People should not have to search for you on Facebook, or Twitter, you should reach out to every member of your community first.

Tip #5: Allow open, yet governed access for your employees

This is where a social media policy comes in. By making sure everyone who is involved in your efforts understands what to do (what they’re allowed to say, how they should respond in different situations, etc) you won’t have to monitor what each person does. Instead, you will be able to focus on making improvements.

One tip about your social media policy — make sure it’s succinct and to the point, otherwise no one will want to read it.

Tip #6: Stay relevant and be helpful

Use social media to build trust, credibility and awareness in your community. Instead of broadcasting information, try creating conversations. Remember, speaking doesn’t always result in being heard.

Be helpful, stay relevant and focus on your community’s needs. It’s also important to humanize your efforts; don’t hide behind your library’s logo, allow your users to get to know you as a person.

Tip #7: Give your community room to grow

Focus on small, consistent and ongoing change. Let your members decide how they want to use “their” online community. Listen to what they have to say and change your goals and objectives based on how your community wants to utilize social media.

Tip #8: Remember, you’re not alone

By building relationships with key people within your community who also utilize social media you can leverage your efforts and obtain better reach. People who are influencers, those who are natural communicators or leaders in your community can help your social media efforts immensely. Identify these people and ask for help. Word of mouth can be very powerful.

Tip #9: Go where your users are

Remember, you don’t have to be an early adopter. It is much better to wait for your community to start utilizing the technology before adding it to your social media arsenal. In short, go where your users are. It’s much easier for someone to join you on Facebook or Twitter if the person actually uses the technology.

Tip #10: Lead change

This is important, especially for libraries that can be very resistant to change at times: if you want to lead change, find one thing you said no to in the past and give it a try.

This is actually something I heard at a digital marketing conference I got a chance to attend last month, but I think it applies great to libraries and social media.

Kasia Grabowska is currently working on her MLIS at Dominican University. She is a website manager for Train Signal, Inc and the editor in cheif of www.trainsignaltraining.com a blog focusing on IT training and certification.

Why No Comments?

Don’t miss:

http://www.asaecenter.org/PublicationsResources/ANowDetail.cfm?ItemNumber=36272

One of the stumbling blocks for libraries when we talk about blogging is the fact that so many library blogs never get comments. This article – focused on associations – might be very useful for strategic planning for the library blog.

I especially like this one:

2. Open and easy. If you really want to build comments, you have to be open and make commenting easy. Limiting your blog content or commenting features to members also limits what you can achieve with your blog. A members-only strategy may be appropriate in some cases, but not if your goal is to engage a vocal audience. In fact, to truly be open, try setting up a blog with

  • No login; 
  • Easy to find comment links; 
  • No captchas—those annoying things that make people spell out letters to prove they are human; 
  • No moderation. (You can always be notified of new posts and moderate after the comments are posted.) The instant gratification a new commenter feels when they see their name and content post to your site is not to be underestimated.
The article goes on to list ten types of posts that can rock. They fit well with our purposes:
  • Insight or opinion. If your blogger can be honest and open enough to share an opinion, you’ll build rapport and attract readers. If you’re brave enough to express an unpopular opinion, you’ll get even more comments.
  • Conference. You have a backstage pass. Why not use it to bring a whole new side of the conference experience to your members, and hear what they think about it?
  • Interview. Find out what the experts really think and share it with your readers.
  • Lists. Hey, you’re reading this list, right? People love lists because they’re easy to digest.
  • Live. What if you live blogged the congressional hearing on the most important issue affecting your members?
  • Announcement. This is about using your position in the industry to let people know about the most important stuff they have to know—even if it’s from a competitor.
  • Survey. We sure do enough of them, right? Whether you’re surveying just your blog readers or sharing the results of a broader survey, it will get people talking.
  • Response. If you’re not getting called out by another blogger once in awhile, you’re not doing it right. Debate draws audience, and a good rebuttal might even change some opinions.
  • Meme. When you’re trying to build awareness about an important topic, starting a meme (something like an online chain letter, but with substance) is a great way to get lots of bloggers talking all at the same time.
  • Guest. Hand over the stage to one of your celebrity members for a day.
  • I think I’ve done many of these at TTW. Which ones have you done? What would you add to the list?
    And watch out for the type of posts they say to avoid:

  • Announcement. I know—we said this was a good one. But it will backfire if you only announce your own new products and conference dates.
  • Rant. Stirring the pot is one thing, going on a negative rant is something different. This works great for some bloggers, but for associations, it’s a losing proposition.
  • Do you utipu?

    Here’s a 1:00 screencast for utipu.com; it’s that easy to download and fire up.

    1. Goto http://www.utipu.com/app/download

    2. After download, run executable.

    3. Launch and press record.

    4. Goto http://www.youtube.com/my_videos_upload and upload your video

    All together took about 8 minutes from download to upload. This is an easier way, perhaps, than saying:

    Okayyyy….first click on…

    Sorry. No Mac version -but you probably don’t need one. I imagine this killer app already exists in iMovie? in something else?

    TTW: Lee LeBlanc

    What features make it easier?

    Do you notice the seams in your socks?

    Are there any to notice? Your coffee mug handle, fit nicely in your hand? Clearing that paper jam without saying, “What do you mean paper still stuck?” Does your RSS reader make it easy to forward cool stuff? How about a planner? Paper or electrons? What’s easier for you? Just how hard is it to design a handle for a door? Product designers are ever more interested in understanding psychology, why? What do you bookmark with? Yes, your actual bookmarks for actual physical books. Love how you don’t have to think about <what>?

    (**I dog-ear-highlight crease-underline-note in my mostly hardcover book collection -gasp? Make the jump to the bottom of the post for the answer to why I do this.)

    Sure. Simple things work simply, right? But complicated things like collecting and sharing research? That’s not easy. So we can’t bother with making it easy -that’s dumbing things down? Hold on. Making users work to organize their research -bad, bad practice. I see so many brilliant students, professors and independent researchers struggle in organizing information. Why is it so hard to manage the information they find? What system of collecting research makes it easy? Sure, we’re taught to write papers, analyze results, and prepare presentations. Are we taught to manage the information we collect?

    That’s not an important step? Why do we assume (or not because we haven’t really thought about it) our users can manage the information they find after they find it? Should they have too? Why don’t we teach this from within libraries? Are we? Are we really? We recognize information overload, information mismanagement, information asphyxiation. We recognize ourselves as experts in organizing information. We tame this stuff right? So where’s the piece where we teach our users how to do this? (I know some of you are doing this; feel free to chime in about how you teach your users’ some info-wranglin’ skills.)

    What about you? Do you feel the “seams” when you’re participating in a project? How many times have you had to re-find an article, a document, a fact, an email, or a website? Was it ever frustrating to have to re-find something you knew you had? It’s not a really big secret that I like to share knowledge. In fact, I believe a fundamental definition for knowledge must include sharing. Without sharing, why pick-up anything along the way? We might as well not be picking anything up. This leads us to a new role. In this changing, helter-skelter techno-infused environment, will our users need help organizing their information? Yes. Helping our users share and organize research must become a prime role. I’d like to see one more emerging role. A professional who can organize knowledge for an organization and this same professional who can organize knowledge for an individual.

    Here’s an example. I keep every citation and article I find. Every.single.one. I like porting my research with me. Why? Because when I talk to someone I can actually send them the article. Yup, I’m that dork. Also, because I’m in school. Collected research comes in handy time and again. You never know when you’re going to have to cite a fundamental paper in the field. Used to be you could only have one or the other: citations or articles handy. I used to carry 120 gig hard drive with me. Then I lost it. Not the hard drive but my mind -just joking- I lost a portion of my hard drive because it felt the need to take a vacation. Now, I want the citations handy. I want the articles handy. And I want protection from technology vacations. This means I need to distribute my collection. Here’s three on the cusp of letting you do just that. (This is just one example of thinking about how to help researchers: organize, protect, share and recollect information from their personal collections for knowledge-sharing.)

    Citeulike allows you to upload research you find. Lacks integration into many subscriber databases. Not a bad thing. Just an observation.

    And citeulike allows attachments too

    Refworks allows you up to 200 mb of storage space. Yet, you’ve got to pay for it individually. And you only get 200 mb of space. There are researchers who would max this out just uploading one year’s worth of collected research articles.

    whoa Refworks allows attachments now

    Zotero may offer the most promise here. It’s not a feature that’s been rolled out yet. Look for it June 2008.

    does zotero allow attachments and multiple locations

    **this is the bottom of the post:

    Once upon a time…Just before it closed one day, I went to a very special place with very special books. I stood -quietly but not too quietly. I said, “Library, I am conflicted. I feel my books are precious. Yet, I want to mark in them. I make notes too. Sometimes in the books; sometimes in notebooks. I don’t always feel the need -but for quite a few I do.” The Library nodded, in a slow Tai Chi like nod. The Library said, “Tell me more.” So I did. (I mean…it’s a freaking talking Library -what would you have done?)

    I say, “I’ve mostly stopped marking up my books. Well, I feel guilty; I’ve bought them; I think of those books as precious friends. As the containers of awesome ideas I have to protect to make them last. Yet, I mark and scrawl and highlight and dog-ear. Sometimes I don’t. Sometimes I hold back. But, then I can’t find what I need because I didn’t highlight it or note it: I’m exasperated! What should I do?”

    The Library sat quietly as they do; but had really furrowed its brow. I could hear movement in the stacks; the books slowly climbing into their spots, settling in for the night.

    The Library said, “Lee, I remember when you first came to me for story time. I know you respect books. More important, I know you respect what books can do. I will say this: Every book to the reader. Books are a perfect piece of technology. No one thinks of them as such. Books form and function to transmit the information they contain. They are your books. You derive benefit by extracting knowledge from them. Your way is but one. Your method is your own. Do with your books as you wish. The only request I ask is that you not burn them -unless you have a really really really good reason. Disagreeing with them is not a good reason. Got it?” I did get it. Sometimes I buy two copies. One to mark in. And one to donate. Articles aren’t the only thing I share. I’d like that to be said at my eulogy:

    He shared books.

    TTW Contributor: Lee LeBlanc

    Press Release: Web 2.0 & Libraries, Part 2: Trends and Technologies

    Web 2.0 & Libraries, Part 2: Trends and Technologies

    by Michael Stephens

    Library Technology Reports, Web 2.0 and Libraries Part 2Social software, more ubiquitous than ever, continues to have a profound impact on information and communication in the Information Age.

    From the American Library Association to social software news aggregation, it's clear the trend toward utilizing "Web 2.0" technologies for information and communication in the 21st century is growing stronger.

    In "Web 2.0 & Libraries, Part 2: Trends and Technologies," librarian and educator Dr. Michael Stephens continues his 2.0 work and re-emphasizes the importance of libraries embracing this world of conversation, community, and collaboration.

    "In this issue [of Library Technology Reports]," he writes, "we'll revisit some of the social tools presented in 'Web 2.0 & Libraries: Best Practices for Social Software,' address some trends guiding social technology in libraries, take a look at some newer tools, and cover some best practices for using 2.0 tools in your library."

    With the "Presence in the 2.0 World " foreward by Jenny "The Shifted Librarian" Levine, this 80-page issue of Library Technology Reports covers a broad range of Web 2.0 topics, tools, and considerations, including:

    • value-added blogging
    • building a community Web site with a blog
    • Ten Best Practices for Flickr & Libraries
    • libraries and social sites like MySpace, Facebook, YouTube
    • tagging and social bookmarking
    • Messaging in a 2.0 World: Twitter & SMS
    • podcasting
    • The OPAC Rebooted
    • how libraries such as the Hennepin County Library and the Arlington Heights Memorial Library are using 2.0 tools

    About the Author
    Michael Stephens, Ph.D, is an assistant professor at the Dominican University Graduate School of Library and Information Science in River Forest, Illinois. A frequent speaker at library conferences around the world, he was named a Library Journal Mover and Shaker in 2005. He has been the keynote speaker at many conferences, including the Iowa Library Association Conference, Ohio Tech Connections, the Rethinking Resource Sharing Conference, the Mississippi Library 2.0 Summit (Mississippi State University), and the Ohio Library Council. He also spoke at Internet Librarian International in London in 2004, 2005, and 2006, and at the August 2006 TICER Innovation Institute at the University of Tilburg, the Netherlands. He serves on the editorial boards of several major journals, including Internet Reference Services Quarterly and Reference & User Services Quarterly.

    A prolific author, Michael wrote “Web 2.0 & Libraries: Best Practices for Social Software,” the July/August 2006 issue of Library Technology Reports published by ALA TechSource (a unit in the publishing dept. of the ALA), and he writes a monthly column, “The Transparent Library,” in Library Journal with Michael Casey. His blog, Tame the Web, is read avidly by many librarians.

    Michael holds bachelor's and MLS degrees from Indiana University and an interdisciplinary Ph.D. in Information Science from the University of North Texas. He divides his time among Illinois, Indiana, and Michigan.

    Marketing Social Software to the Public: Your Success Stories

    Greetings from the ultra-cool Traverse Area District Library, where I am embedded on the second floor working on my second installment of Library Technology Reports. This issue is a followup to last year’s Web 2.0 & Libraries: Best Practices for Social Software. This year it’s “Web 2.0 & Libraries, Part 2: Trends and Technologies, and I’m working on pulling it all together so it is as current as it can possibly be.

    My request? Please share your success stories and not so successful stories about marketing social software to the public. When Karen Schneider reviewed part one last year she noted that might be a good inclusion for a future issue. So, what have you done to market your 2.0 goodness to your users? Please share here and if I use your stuff, I’ll be sure to cite you! :-)

    You can also email me at mstephens7 (at) mac.com

    Why Don’t CEOs (Library Directors?) Blog…

    Director, are you Blogging??

    Via the Church of the Customer Blog:

    If CEOs blogged, they would save considerable time on hundreds of weekly emails that ask roughly the same types of questions. That’s part of Debbie Weil’s thesis in The Corporate Blogging Book. “Why not do it more efficiently?” she writes. “Instead of a one-to-one message, why not a communication from one to many thousands?” She describes the pro’s and con’s of corporate blogging with plenty o’ pointers on how to do it well and not screw up. I read an early copy of the book and it’s excellent.

    So what about Library Directors? I know of a few that are blogging (see below), but I think it would be nice to have a few more — in fact, I’d hope that more directors will be inspired AND the next wave of folks that move into admin positions would welcome the chance to speak directly to their users!
    __________________________________________________________________________________________

    How cool would it be if the local newspapers syndicated their headlines with an RSS feed so that you could subscribe to them? And blogged “live” from government meetings? And posted dozens of photos (all the ones that didn’t make it in this week’s paper) on a Flickr account, especially if there was breaking news? OK, we’re biased because we want them to do it so that we can feed the headlines, blog posts and photos onto our own Darien Community Matters blog, providing the most balanced, accurate and up-to-date information possible. And I guess that you could say that we’re becoming Web 2.0 missionaries….. because we (that’s me and Assistant Director Melissa Yurechko) invited Josh Fisher, editor of the Darien Times over to discuss it, as the first of a series of meetings with the local news media.

    Louise Berry, Director, Darien Library, Director’s Blog

    __________________________________________________________________________________________

    I wonder why many directors do not blog?

    Could it be:

    No Time?? Possibly, but wouldn’t being able to communicate library news and important details about the business of the library to the most people with an easy to use mechanism be a useful tool? It would also set an example, that top-down buy-in that is important for technologyyy projectss and organizational shifts. Here’s David King’s take on the Time thing as well — it deserves another link.

    Fear? Are you afraid to put yourself out there? Afraid that a typo might slip through. It’s time to let that go.We certainly don’t have to publish our home phone numbers, but some human discourse from the top might be very welcome in many libraries, internally and externally. Folks don’t care about a typo or two these days — and heck, you can always go back and fix it.

    __________________________________________________________________________________________

    I, as the administrator, and the one whose job is on the line, am willing to take a risk here. Why are others so risk averse? It costs us very little. Other libraries are doing it without problem, we are not first, and I’ll be blasted if we will be last!

    Michael Golrick, City Librarian, Bridgeport, CT at his blog Thoughts from a Library Administrator

    __________________________________________________________________________________________

    “I have nothing to say.” Oh, yes you do! Tell your story, your day to day adventures, your thoughts on the library and its collection. Blog your plans and strategies. This isn’t top secret work (well, yeah, some stuff is private), but blogging creates a level of transperancy that could benefit many libraries.

    That’s what the marketing/PR Department is for. Well, I’d hope that PR was blogging too, in a human voice, not the language of marketing that people can recognize these days so easily, BUT the voice of library administration carries a lot of weight too. Here’s what the Cluetrain says oh so well: “But learning to speak in a human voice is not some trick, nor will corporations convince us they are human with lip service about “listening to customers.” They will only sound human when they empower real human beings to speak on their behalf.”
    __________________________________________________________________________________________

    I spend an awful lot of time soliciting and then responding to feedback and suggestions from our users. Lately, the written suggestions in the box asking for “newer” and “better” DVDs have outnumbered the requests for specific books or authors by nearly 12 to 1. My response to the requests for newer, better DVDs has always been that we buy what Blockbuster doesn’t — the hard-to-find TV shows — the series, the old shows & films, the BBCAmerica & PBS films — and not the drivel (Oops. I’m showing my bias. Sorry) that appears in the theaters. However, when people request a specific title, whether book, music, movie, or magazine, we’ll usually buy it.

    I’ve just finished a lengthy analysis of our collection, including what we buy, how much it’s used, and what our users ask for. The not-surprising conclusion I’ve come to is that DVD and Books on CD are used far more than our print collection. For example, one copy of a bestselling book by John Grisham got 59 circs during the period I was reviewing, while The Sopranos DVD recorded 354 circs. A Book on CD version of the same Grisham novel logged in 153 circs. Clearly, the format of choice is not print. In examining our reference questions logged in that period of time, requests for specific movies or Books on CD outnumbered specific requests for print materials by 5 to 1.

    Patricia Uttaro, New and views from the Director of the Ogden Farmers’ Library…

    __________________________________________________________________________________________

    Finally, and I am sure this is not the case in most places, what’s a blog? Directors, if you haven’t spent some time with the new tools and these new conversations, now is the time. Ask someone on staff to show you some blogs. Then ponder how you and your library might use the medium to further your mission, reach out to users, and give human voice to the library.

    (This post has been cooking a long time. Don’t miss Jenny Levine’s post and the Blogging Directors Wiki page.)